§ LORD ASHLEY
then rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Act in respect of the hours and mode of working under the Factory Acts. He said: The House will recollect, that in 1847 a Bill was passed for limiting the hours of labour in factories from 12 to 10 in the case of persons under 18 years of age. That Bill, consisting of one or two clauses, was engrafted on the existing Bill of 1844, which it left untouched in all its provisions 884 except the limitation of the hours of labour to 10 in the day. By the Act of 1844 the time ranged from half-past 5 in the morning to half-past 8 in the evening; 15 hours' duration was allowed as the period during which labour might be carried on. But there was also in that Act a clause which enjoined that the labour of all young persons should date from the time at which any child or young person began to work in the factory, and should not last for more than 10 hours in the day. The result of that legislation was, that the labour of all young persons was continuous from the time at which it began, and therefore the system of shifts and relays under that interpretation of this section of the Act was impossible. After passing the Act of 1847, however, it was discovered by some parties that the section which affected the period to which the labour of children and young persons might be extended, was not so stringent in the wording as to preclude altogether the employment of relays, and relays were therefore introduced into a certain number of mills. Very great discontent in consequence arose, and very great confusion was created by the great number of contradictory decisions on the subject. The magistrates of Bradford took one view, and those of Manchester another; in short, so contradictory were the decisions all over the country, that no one knew what the law was. The inspectors of factories acted upon the interpretation that relays were altogether forbidden, and proceeded on that principle, but they were often defeated before the magistrates, and the result was, that, to prevent any further confusion, it was considered advisable that the case should be tried in one of the superior courts. A case was accordingly brought into the Court of Exchequer, and there a decision was given adverse to the interpretation put upon the Act by the inspectors. Mr. Baron Parke, in giving judgment, declared that the words of the Act were not sufficiently stringent to carry into effect what the Court strongly conjectured must have been the intention of the Legislature. That being the case, and believing that to prohibit shifts and relays was the intention of the Legislature, I now bring this matter before the House, asking to be allowed to introduce a Bill that will carry into effect what were the intentions of Parliament in 1844. There can, I think, be little or no doubt that it 885 was the intention of the Legislature that the labour of all young persons employed in a factory should be continuous from the time at which that labour was begun. Baron Parke, in giving his judgment, shows clearly enough that he believed it must have been the intention of the Legislature to prohibit relays; but he says—It is not enough that we conjecture, even strongly, that it was the intention of the Legislature to have prohibited the Act; there must be words indicating plainly and clearly that it has done so; and, applying this rule of construction, we do not think that there are words in the statutes sufficiently plain and clear to render the conduct of the defendant in the case above-mentioned liable to punishment.But let me go to the next step. In the last report of the inspectors of factories laid on the table of the House, I find these words from the pen of Mr. Inspector Horner:—I can speak from positive knowledge that it was the intention of the framers of the Bill of 1844 that the working by shifts, which had been practised under the Act of 1833, should be prevented."…"When the Bill of 1844 was preparing, the inspectors were called upon by the Secretary of State to suggest enactments which would remedy the defect of the Act of 1833, and they did so.It may be stated in confirmation, that in 1845 the Home Secretary (Sir J. Graham) directed his Under Secretary, Mr. Manners Sutton, to write to the inspectors of factories a letter, in which he told them that their interpretation of the law was in his view correct, and that relays were interdicted, inasmuch as the work should date from the time any child or young person began to work. You have, therefore, the full testimony of the framers of the Act as to what their intentions were in framing it; and I appeal to every Member who voted for the Bill in 1844 if they did not intend that the relay system should be interdicted, and that the ten hours' labour should be continuous labour, except with those intervals necessary for meals. Moreover, I recollect that in the same year in which the Bill passed, I proposed an Amendment, and twice I carried it, to the effect that the hours of labour in each day should be from six to six, with two hours for meals. This pretty strongly declared on the part of the House that its intentions were that all shifts and relays should be interdicted. Let me now call the attention of the House to the reason and necessity of this prohibition. The Act was granted not only for the limitation of toil to ten 886 hours, but the main arguments used in the House in favour of the limitation were, that the working people should thereby be enabled to employ themselvos every evening for purposes of improvement, in promoting their moral, domestic, and religious benefit, and in recreation—in everything, in short, that tends to keep body and soul in a healthy condition. If this be so, then, let m show that by the present arrangement of shifts and relays, the purpose of the Legislature must be unavailing. What is the effect of these shifts and relays? Do we know the monstrous condition to which the people in these mills are reduced by this system of interminable labour? I cannot do better than read to the House a letter I have received, which gives in very few words a graphic account of the privation and losses to which the people are exposed by this system. A gentleman writes me as follows—[Mr. BRIGHT: Name.] I do not think it is necessary to give the name of the, writer; but I can state on my word of honour as a gentleman that he is a person of high standing, and as competent as any in this House to give an account of what he has observed. He is a gentleman on whom the greatest reliance can be placed; and I am ready to admit that if, in such circumstances, I were to impose upon the House the testimony of a person not to be trusted, I should feel that I ought to retire from this House and even from the society of gentlemen. I do not, however, feel myself called upon to give the name, but am willing to inform the hon. Member for Manchester that the letter is dated March, 1849, and that the place to which he refers is Staleybridge. He says—I have been to-day to see some factories where the so-called relay system is in full work, and have seen such evidence of the evils of that mode of working the people that I cannot refrain from pouring out my feelings to you. In one factory I found 335 young persons and women working by relays; they are sent out at different times of the day, so as to bring their actual working to ten hours. They are sent out of the mill without any regard to the distance of their homes or the state of the weather. Some of them, I ascertained, lived two miles off, and thus the half hour, or one hour, or two hours, can be turned to no good account. The lads of 13 up to 18, and the young girls and women, are wandering about the streets, and to what temptations of vice and profligacy they are thus exposed I need not say. The manager of one of the mills spoke of the system with abhorrence; and he told me that one of his own daughters is exposed, in another mill, to all that mischief. He and another manager said that the factory law has never worked so oppressively to the operatives as it does now.887 Another strong argument against the present system is the utter impossibility of detecting evasions of the law, and the great facility it gives the employers to keep parties at work during a time exceeding ten hours, and to extend it to eleven or twelve hours. Mr. Inspector Horner, in his report of 1848, says—One millowner, employing more than 1,000 hands, said to me, 'Give me the power you de scribe, and, if I were so disposed, I should have no difficulty in cheating you, if you were actually living in the mill.'A second said—If working by relays were allowed, the Act would speedily become utterly abortive.Another manager said—If there were twenty inspectors we could defy them all if relays were allowed.That being the case, and the system of shifts and relays being so very subversive of all comfort and peace among the workmen, I have thought it my duty to come to the Legislature and ask for leave to bring in a Bill that should declare what I consider to have been the intention of the Legislature at the time the Act of 1844 was passed. In doing so I will keep so strictly to the point in dispute that I will not deviate by one hair's breadth to the right or to the left. Doubtless, there are other branches of the question that might be maintained, but I will touch only on the single point of the continuity of labour, and I cannot help believing that in doing so I shall have the full concurrence of the House. Now, I have exhausted my imagination to conceive the grounds on which any resistance could be offered to this measure, but I cannot call up any such arguments, and therefore I am unable to anticipate them. This I know, that every prophecy and every argument employed in 1844 and 1847 as to the evil consequences of the measures we have passed, have been not only falsified, but actually reversed. After two years' experience of the Ton Hours Bill, I will undertake to show—and if I do not I will retire from the charge of this measure—that every single prediction of evil has been falsified, and that benefit only has resulted where nothing but mischief was dreaded. Those who recollect the debates of 1844 and 1847 will remember that nothing was foretold but complete ruin to the manufacturing interest if the short hours Bill was passed. Now, observe, that the Eleven Hours Bill has been in operation for three years, and the Ten Hours Bill for two years, short of six 888 weeks, and I appeal to all who heard the speeches of Gentlemen on the other side of the House on the first night of this Session, to declare whether the prediction of complete ruin to the manufacturing interest has in any degree been fulfilled? Did we not hear speeches of the most glowing description as to the wonderful prosperity of the manufacturing interest? The hon. Member for Wolverhampton in one of those speeches told us among many other things that wages were high at Bradford, and that there was reason to believe they would rise still higher. Indeed, one Member after another spoke of the prosperity of our manufactures; and I ventured at the time to say to a friend of mine at my right hand, "Listen to all these glowing accounts, and remember that all this prosperity has taken place under the operation of the Ten Hours Act, from which nothing but destitution to the workmen and ruin to the manufacturer were to flow." The next argument against the Ten Hours Bill was, that capital would leave the country. How often did an hon. Gentleman, no longer a Member of this House, Mr. M. Phillips, declare that the very hour that Bill passed he would get rid of his mill property, and transfer it to another land? The hon. Member for Lancashire said it would produce on the industry of this country the same effect as the revocation of the Edict of Nantes produced on the industry of France. But what has been the result? Since 1848 there have been vast additions, involving great outlay of capital, to many existing mills, and many new mills are in the course of construction. Capital is being invested in great amount in this trade and business that was to be ruined. But, if I am answered that the Bill has brought more capital and called more labour into the field, then I say it has done more good than could have been imagined, and that Gentlemen have invested their capital in this way because they derive considerable profit from it. The third argument was, that production would be diminished by one-sixth in proportion to the reduction of time. Let me take the two years 1845 and 1846, preceding the period of limitation. The total export of cotton goods in those years was 2,157,146,658 yards. Taking 1848 and 1849, being the two years following the reduction, I find the total exports of cotton goods have been 2,432,406,574 yards, being an increase of 275,259,916 yards, or 12 per cent; whereas the prediction was 889 a decrease of 16 per cent. Again, for cotton twist and yarn for 1846 and 1847, the quantity was 282,163,491lb., whilst in 1848 and 1849 it was 285,333,657lb., being an increase of 3,170,166lbs, Production, in fact, has increased to an enormous extent. In 1844 a petition was presented from Manchester against the Bill, and embodied these four points. It was said, that "the passing of a Ten Hours Bill would cause a diminution of produce." You have heard how far production has increased. Next, it was said, "there would take place a reduction in the same proportion of the value of the fixed capital employed in the trade." No such thing has occurred. Machinery has been speeded, and any reduction that was anticipated has been met by greater velocity. Next, it was said, "that a diminution of wages would ensue, to the great injury of the workpeople." I will show that no such injury has occurred; and that in a vast number of cases wages have not been reduced—that in some cases they have been raised—and that in all where they have been reduced, they have been met by compensating circumstances. Then, it was said, "there would be a rise of price, and consequent peril of foreign competition." There has been no rise of price, and consequently no fear of foreign competition. That is the case of the opponents of the measure, and I shall be glad to hear in what point those predictions have been verified, and in what point we have been at fault when we asserted that no harm whatsoever would arise to the capitalists. I now come to the case of the working people, and this is well worthy of the attention of the House; for I think I shall be able to show that so great has been the improvement in the moral and social condition of the working people as almost to border on the marvellous; and, if I had not these statements from the most authentic sources, I should hesitate to believe that in so short a time such beneficial effects could have been produced. The first assertion that was made was that wages would be reduced in many instances to the minimum of subsistence. How has that been fulfilled? I will take it under three heads: either wages have been diminished, or have continued stationary, or have increased. I find that wherever wages have been diminished, in no single instance have piece wages been reduced by 1–6th, in proportion to the reduction of time. I will take one mill, and I wish 890 here to state that, to avoid too long an occupation of the time of the House, I will give instances, as samples of the whole, and thus limit the details. A gentleman has sent me up this from his own mill. In the spinning department the reduction of time has been 1–6th, the reduction of work 1–10th. He tells me the total loss on a pair of mules, per week, in 10 hours, as compared with 12, would be 5s.; but that loss is to be divided among four persons, so that the loss to each would be of no considerable amount. But in the same mill, in the weaving and manufacturing departments, it was the reverse. The gain on a pair of mules, in 10 hours, as compared with 12 hours, would be 5s. 5d. 5 8ths; and the millowner adds this note—"A general improvement of the hands by full 50 per cent." In another mill the reduction in the weaving department, under the Ten Hours Bill, as compared with 12 hours, is only 1–17th; and on the self actors 1–9th; and, from some extensive inquiries I have made, I find that the average reduction is not more than 1–24th; so that where wages have been reduced, in no instance have they been reduced by 1–6th in proportion to the time; in some instances they have risen; and where they have been reduced, they have been reduced in the proportion of 1–17th or 1–24th. But how have these reductions been met I ventured, in 1844, to state to the House some homely details, some of which I must now repeat, and, however homely they appear, the House will bear in mind that these small details make up the daily life of the working man. I showed that if the hours were reduced to 10, and wages were reduced in proportion, the working people would, by economy, be enabled to meet more than the reduction, and find themselves altogether in a far better condition; that they were prepared to abide by the reduction, even if it took place to the full extent, but that, even if it took place to 1–6th, they would find compensation for it. I will now show you, in the clearest manner, that they have made more than compensation, and are better off with the reduction and ten hours labour, than with the higher wages and twelve hours labour. Here is an instance given me by an operative yesterday morning, and this is a very fair sample of the effect of the Ten Hours Act on wages, and the possibility of economy. He says, that under the twelve hours system he and his family of seven children worked at a fac- 891 tory, and earned 2l. 15s. a week. Deducting 10s. for rent and fire, it left 2l. 5s.; the expense of 26 meals a week required by the family, being four for five days, when they were in full work in the mill, and which number was then indispensable, and three for two days. Saturday and Sunday, when the mill was not in full work, at 1s. 8¾d. a meal, consumed the whole of the 2l. 5s., and left nothing for other expenses. The same persons are working now under the ten hours system. Allowing a reduction of 7½ per cent, which is above the average, they earn 2l. 1s. a week. Deducting, as before, 10s. for rent and fire, it left 2l. 1s.; but instead of 26 meals, they require now but 21 in the week, being three a day, and at the same coat of 1s. 8¾d., they amounted to 2l. 1s., being a saving for meals alone of 4s. 8d.; and then comes in other considerations worthy of the attention of the House; 8d. a week more is saved in this way—the eldest daughters, no longer confined to the mill, are able to make their own dresses and under garments, and therefore there is a saving altogether of 5s. 4d. a week; and this operative, and many like him, are better off then, under the Ten Hours Act, than with higher wages under the twelve hours system. The reduction of wages, therefore, is more than met by compensating circumstances; and there must be taken into account the improved health and condition of the parties, the smaller subscription to the pay of the sick list, and the fewer times they are obliged to call on the sick club. But it was next said, "You are saying to a man willing to work, 'You shall not lay up against an evil day.'" Now, I have not got statements from savings banks, but I have some important statements that have been sent to me by a clerk of some of the societies in different parts of the country, in which he shows the most improved state of the finances of those societies in consequence of the Ten Hours Bill. The clerk to the St. John's Female Friendly Society writes:—The number of members was 800; factory workers, 17–20ths. In 1846–47 the income was 153l.; expenditure, 157l.; deficiency, 4l. In 1848–19, the balance over the expenditure was 44l. In the present year an equal surplus is expected. St. John's School Sick Club.—Members 400. From 1843 to 1847, much difficulty in covering the expenditure; but, in 1848–49, income 73l.; expenses, 46l.; balance, 27.He adds—Same results observed in many other societies. My opinion is, that a great saving has been 892 effected here, and the general health of the population considerably improved, since the Ten Hours Bill came into operation. The working classes appear more disposed to cleanliness and sobriety.The officers of the Oakenshaw Sick Society write:—We, the officers of the Oakenshaw Sick Society, do certify that the funds of the sick society have increased considerably during the time of the Ten Hours Bill; and we attribute the cause of it to the members having more time for recreation and working shorter time.'That of itself affords the means of making some saving against an evil day. The fact of being in better spirits and health prolongs his life, and, instead of being obliged to give up work at forty years of age, as the spinner was obliged to do, he may now be able to carry it on to fifty. It was then said that the time so granted will be ill used. Nothing has been more frequently urged than that that time would be converted to the worst purposes. What is the evidence upon that point? No doubt, in so large a mass, some few instances may be found where the people have not turned to account the great blessing they have received, but an enormous majority have acted in the sense intended by the House in passing the Bill. I have here statements from the clergy of the Church of England, from schoolmasters and dissenting ministers throughout Lancashire and Yorkshire, all speaking one and the same thing. Let me take the case of the women first. How have they used their time? There are hundreds of grown girls and women now attending evening-schools, and learning to read and write, to knit and sew, learning things they could not have learnt under the pressure of the twelve hours system. "You may see," writes a clergyman, "the women clean and comfortable, and engaged in domestic duties." I remember in the last report of Mr. Inspector Horner he states the fact of several young women having given up the business of dressmaking ever since the limitation of time came into opera-ration, because, in consequence of that, young people in the mills now made their own clothes. Is that no important consideration for people of that class? Unless they are acquainted with those duties, how can they undertake to discharge the duties of wives and mothers? An inquiry was made under my direction in 1833. Twenty-three factory houses were examined successively, and not in one of them was found a female who could darn a 893 stocking, mend a shirt, or make any article of clothing for her husband. The consequence was, that those things were put out and paid for, which was a very considerable reduction in the wages. That work is now done at home, and there are other most blessed results from the Ten Hours Act. I have a statement from a burial society in one of the largest towns in Lancashire. The clerk says—The number of burials during the last two years has fallen off considerably, although the cholera raged in the town; and I observe the diminution is of children under five years of age; and I assume the reason to be that mothers are able to come home much earlier, and give that attention to their children which no hired servant can ever bestow.Let me tell the House how the males have occupied their time. A person of great experience, who has been clerk to many societies for many years, writing from Blackburn, says—and the same may be said of many other towns—In connexion with some of the mills are young men's improvement societies, in which are taught the rudiments of the language, and also a sound knowledge of mechanics, geometry, chemistry, and general literature. These societies are solely supported by the young men's private contributions.I received, only this morning, a letter from Dr. Hook, of Leeds, and he is no idle pastor, but gives more attention and more labour in his mighty parish of Leeds than almost any clergyman ever known there or elsewhere. He writes to me in full admiration of the working of the Ten Hours Act, and says—Since the passing of the Ten Hours Act fifty night schools have been opened in Leeds, most of which will be closed if we are deprived of it.Here, then, I ask this House, talking as it often does about the education of the people, and having received with some favour a proposition from the hon. Member for Oldham—a proposition that contained a new principle hitherto maintained in this House, and which was received simply and solely on account of the conviction of the necessity of extending education—shall we not be chargeable with the most undisguised hypocrisy, if we allow these people to be deprived of the advantage of these schools, if we come here afterwards and prate about the education of the people? But there is another way in which the males have employed their time. In many of the districts the operatives have got small portions of land, and have cultivated them in their leisure hours, and have in 894 some instances raised not only vegetables fur themselves, but enough food for a cow, and so get a supply of milk, and so eager are they in this work that frequently they labour until twelve o'clock at night. I am not stating this on my own authority. The sub-inspector writes to Mr. Saunders, one of the factory inspectors:—Todmorden, Nov. 24, 1849.My dear Sir—The information you received when at Todmorden, in reference to garden allotments, was, in the main, true. The system had been adopted to a limited extent before the ten hours law came into operation; but then an impulse was given to it which had not been before known. Three-fourths of the land which is now appropriated to garden purposes in this neighbourhood have been called into existence by the factory labourer having more spare time. I can give you a number of cases where the factory hand keeps a cow, partly from the produce of his garden, to supply the little ones with honest milk. A great deal of good arises, and much evil is avoided, by this very rational system. Some of the parties are so attached to their little gardens that I have seen them at work in the moonlight. Thirty acres in this locality are thus used. Diverge from Todmorden, which way you please, 2½ miles, and you will find plots of land, railway slopes, odd hits and ends, which used to be waste, now furnishing recreation, health, and food to the cottager.—Yours, &c. "JAMES HARDMAN.The fact is, that in many of those desert places parcels of the land had been converted into gardens. This is confirmed by evidence from Keighley:—The Ten Hours Act gives greater facility for this enjoyment. Indeed, by far the greater number of allotments I have enumerated have commenced since the Ten Hours Act came into operation, and I believe never would have commenced, had the hours of labour in factories not been shortened.And I received this morning a very important statement from Oldham, which I dare say the hon. Member for that borough will be able to corroborate, to show that the Spinners' Association have taken a considerable piece of land, and whenever any one of the body was out of work, instead of feeding him in idleness, they put him on that piece of land, and the result has been a saving in the rates of 75l. last year. Could they have employed their time in a better way than that in which they have employed it? Is there any man who will say that this does not far exceed the hope he formed of the good working of the Act? Sanguine as I was of its result, I was not prepared to expect so much from it, and can any person say that these people are not in the highway of right, moral, and social amelioration and improvement? Another argument 895 was urged with great solemnity in these words:—This Bill is not for the benefit of the working classes; it will not tend to their advancement or intellectual culture, or of their social improvement.Most undoubtedly, if the relay system is persevered in, it will tend not to their intellectual culture, but to their physical and intellectual debasement. But does it not tend to their intellectual and social improvement? Hear the evidence on this subject of Mr. Saunders, the inspector. In his valuable report, recently laid on the table, speaking of Keighley, he says—Prior to the Ten Hours Act coming into force the Mechanics Institute was composed of about 200, now it numbers about 400, members; of these 48 are males in classes, learning reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, and drawing. These are nearly all connected with factories. There are also 118 females who learn reading, writing, arithmetic, and plain sewing two nights a week, from 7 to 9 o'clock. These are nearly all power-loom weavers at various neighbouring factories; the male and female classes together number 166, or nearly one-half of the total number of the members of the institution. None out of either of those classes were members prior to the passing of the Ten Hours Act, nor would they continue in the classes henceforth were the eleven hours system to come into operation; indeed, they arose and were formed entirely in consequence of the relaxation of the hours of labour by the Ten Hours Act.And here is the report from Manchester:—Night-schools, institutes, and other places of teaching, on the increase; all the ministers of religion declare a better attendance.The Rev. Mr. Sharples, writing from Blackburn, says—Immediately from the passing of the Ten Hours Bill reading-rooms and schools for mutual instruction sprang up on all sides.What is the result at Bolton and Stockport, I can state on the authority of the Roman Catholic priests of those towns:—The number of factory workers attending schools and institutes has more than doubled. There is not the slightest doubt that the social, moral, and physical condition of the factory workers has been improved. Under the shift system these advantages would be destroyed. I am of opinion that the Ten Hours Bill is one of the best measures ever passed.And so, I believe, the majority of this House will affirm; and let me call attention to this fact, that these two gentlemen are speaking of the Irish part of the population of these towns; and here you may see some hope for Ireland, because you may see there is a mode of legislation by which 896 those who are in the lowest state of degradation may be brought to something like a state of humanity. In the factory of Messrs. Gardner and Co., at Preston, before the Ten Hours Act there was no night-school. Now there is one attended by 250 females. At Horrocks' mill, at Preston—out of 270 hands 104 attend night-schools; and one master finds them so improved that he joins us at our tea parties, and is quite rejoiced at the improvement.I presented this evening a petition from Dundee signed by many persons; by the bishop, 15 clergy, 18 medical men, and 20 millowners, all denouncing the shift and relay system, and calling for a continuance of the Ten Hours Act. Another clergyman writes to me, a pastor in a dense population—I can speak of the effects of the Ten Hours Act on my daily evening service. The majority of the regular attenders consists of persons engaged in factories. Their conduct and spiritual condition are the most satisfectory of any persons attending my church.……Deeply would they grieve, and deeply should I grieve, if the Legislature sanctioned a system such as the relay system, which must entirely deprive them of these benefits, and would very deeply injure their moral and religious character.A great change, too, has also come over the minds of many millowners who formerly opposed the Act. One extensive millowner, Mr. Eccles, formerly an opponent of the Bill, who was a magistrate, stated the other day, on the occasion of several persons being convicted of evading the law, that he would on all occasions enforce the law with the utmost rigour; that the Ten Hours Act had produced a vast deal of good, and that the people were more healthy and cleanly than before. Another writes to me thus:—I feel satisfied that no millowner can come forward honestly to say one word against the well-working of the Ten Hours Bill. The abominable system of shifts and relays is obnoxious even to those who practise it: and it is only adopted in a spirit of opposition to one of the best measures of legislative enactment.….The average wages per head in this town are as great as I have ever known, though the time is reduced by one-sixth. An improvement in the health, happiness, and contentment is quite manifest among the operatives—a sure index to moral and religious progression……In fact, it has done much good to the trade generally.I have now put before the House a statement of the case of the working people. I have put before the House the arguments that were adduced against the Ten Hours Bill, and I have shown the utter and complete refutation of those arguments. I 897 have stated the error in that Act. I ask, then, that the error of legislation be redressed, and that a law, so fruitful in every good result, be confirmed without delay. This is the question that, after seventeen years of effort, I propose to this House on behalf of the great mass of the operatives of the counties of Lancaster and York. I can hardly anticipate either an immediate or a future opposition, and yet I am told that some attempt will be made to qualify our demand, and give but a scanty answer to our prayer. I, for one, am resolved not to accept any such concession; nor do I believe that those whom I represent will be less resolved to maintain a certain good than they were during twenty-five years to pursue one that was problematical. They have proved the virtue of the measure, have entered into possession, and nothing will turn them from it. And, God be praised, I say it emphatically, that they are so determined; it is a noble proof of social and moral amelioration; it shows to us that they prize, and that they will use, the opportunity of intellectual and religious culture, and of all the domestic virtues; it fill us, in a time of many fears, with hope for these realms, nay, more, with hope, that this great nation may be an example to others for the advancement of mankind. Sir, Her Majesty has invited the people of all nations to flock, next, year, to this country, and witness an exhibition of all that the world can produce; every class, every calling, every profession, will contribute something to show its peculiar industry. Let it be the work of this House to show a contented, happy, and well-governed people—hœ tibi erunt artes. You are not called upon to begin afresh; the blessed work is already half accomplished, and you are now only besought not to destroy it. Formerly, Sir, I appealed to the humanity of the Legislature; I do so no more, for I stand on our Magna Charta, on our accorded rights; and feeling convinced as I do, from the bottom of my soul, that this question secures the temporal and eternal welfare of many thousands, I appeal alone, in the name of Almighty God, to the justice and the honour of Parliament.
§ MR. H. EDWARDS
Scarcely three hours have elapsed since I was informed that it would be my privilege to second the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Bath, and not being in the habit of addressing the House, and, moreover, never wishing to do so except on matters referring to the general interest 898 of the district which I represent, I throw myself upon the indulgence and generosity of the House with great confidence. This, however, is a question so vitally affecting the mass of the people in the manufacturing districts, that I accept the opportunity with much satisfaction. The manufacturers in the neighbourhood in which I reside almost unanimously object to the shift system, and even since the decision of the Judges in the Court of Exchequer has rendered it legal, very few have shown any disposition to avail themselves of it; and I find from Captain Hart, the sub-inspector of the district, that not one information has been laid by him for a breach of the law as respects relays or shifts since the Ten Hours Act came into operation in any part of the country over which his jurisdiction extends. It is my decided conviction that this system would deprive women and young persons of the benefits intended by the Act of Parliament; for, although not absolutely worked more than ten hours, their time would necessarily be at the disposal of their masters during the entire fifteen hours between half-past five, A.M., and half-past eight, P.M. Besides this, I question the practicability of carrying out the law, as recently constructed, unless indeed the present staff of inspectors were greatly augmented; and even then, supposing two sots of hands are working fifteen hours, the difficulty for any inspector to ascertain whether any one individual had not worked for more than ten consecutive hours, or for a longer period, would be almost insurmountable. I have ever been a strenuous supporter and advocate of the Ten Hours Bill, and, since the Act came into operation, I have seen no reason to change my opinion; for, by the increase of speed in machinery, and the closer attention of the workpeople, the amount of production will not, I think, eventually, be materially diminished, especially in the worsted and cotton factories. Whatever difference of opinion may exist amongst manufacturers as regards this Act, contrasted with one of eleven hours—when the former he-came the law of the land—with the true and loyal spirit of Englishmen, they all united in a desire to uphold it against all attempts at evasion. Very few, I think, will be found to advocate any restriction of the motive power, or to interfere with adult labour; for, whilst by the former step we should only multiply the number of mills, by the latter we should deprive the frugal 899 and industrious artisan of an opportunity of increasing the amount of his wages, and thereby adding to the comforts, perhaps, of a large family, when orders were plentiful, and the trade of the country in a prosperous state. Besides, it would clearly be an unjust interference with the rights of the subject. We want the Act of 1847, and with nothing short of it will the people of the united kingdom be satisfied. I have reason to believe that by all constitutional means it is the intention of the men of Yorkshire and Lancashire, by a simultaneous effort throughout the manufacturing districts, so to impress upon the Government the necessity of keeping faith with the originators and framers of the Act of 1847 (for which the operatives had manfully struggled upwards of 30 years), by carrying out its provisions in their true spirit, that Ministers could not long hesitate to rectify the blunders they have allowed to pass into law. My views and principles have ever been favourable to protection with temperate modifications; but as soon as free trade became the law of the land, I felt bound to give it a fair trial. I have heard a great deal in this House of the steady, sound, and healthy state of trade throughout the country. I only trust it may be so in reality; but I entertain great doubts about it. It is perfectly true that in Bradford, the great emporium of the worsted trade, a state of things exists hitherto unprecedented. Orders for yarn cannot be executed with sufficient despatch, and thousands of poor woolcombers, who only two short years ago, I well remember, were wandering about the streets in a state bordering on starvation, are at the present moment fully employed, and at fair wages. May they long continue to reap the blessings they now enjoy! In the woollen districts—I mean Halifax, Huddersfield, &c., with which I am most familiar—the same thing exists, although in a more limited degree; but is it so in the cotton districts? No. We have merely to cross the border to the neighbouring county—Lancashire to wit—and we shall find a very different state of things. Already a reaction has taken place, and, if we can rely upon the weekly circulars, a large proportion of the mills are working short time; the home market is overdone, the foreign markets are positively glutted with Manchester cotton fabrics. I attribute, in the woollen and worsted districts generally, the wonderful trade we have enjoyed during the last 900 twelve months, not altogether to the effect of free trade, which I allow has not yet had a fair trial, but that it is partly to be accounted for by the extraordinary—I had almost said undesirable—cheapness of money, which has enabled the manufacturer to supply that vacuum which has been caused by the unexampled depression of two preceding years. These facts may appear to the House irrelevant; but I mention them to strengthen my argument that it would be unwise to place any restriction on the motive power, or to interfere with adult labour; for, whilst by the former we should be induced to build a greater number of factories, and create a false demand for labourers from the agricultural districts, who would starve when any reaction took place; by the latter we should deprive the industrious operative of the benefit he might derive by a few extra hours of labour, and extra wages when the state of trade was prosperous. One remark, and I have done. It is a remarkable fact that the families of the majority of the Members of the West Riding, including my own—and I take pride in admitting it—have risen from trade, and some of them even within the last quarter of a century. I now fervently appeal to them, one and all, to embrace this opportunity of acknowledging a debt of gratitude to the working classes, by giving their unqualified support to the prayer of the parties to whom, in truth and reality, they owe their present proud and honourable position in the Commons' House of Parliament.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, that although he certainly had indulged the hope that, after the protracted discussions which had formerly taken place upon the much-disputed question of the propriety of imposing a restriction on the hours of labour of certain classes of persons employed in factories, Parliament had at length arrived at a settlement of the question, and that it would have been unnecessary to revive a discussion which every one must deprecate, because it could hardly be carried on without placing in apparent antagonism the interests of persons engaged in a great branch of national industry, whose interests, however, were inseparably combined, and between whom it was essential that sentiments of kindly feeling should exist; nevertheless he must admit that in the present ascertained state of the law his noble Friend and those who were acting with him were justified in coming to the House and asking for a 901 legislative remedy for what they believed to be an evil. He would say nothing then of the nature of the remedy which his noble Friend proposed; on that subject, indeed, the noble Lord had said but little himself, and rather allowed it to be gathered from the general purport of his observations than from any specific declaration of its nature. Speaking for himself, and looking back to the part which he took in supporting the existing restrictions on the labour in factories of the classes before referred to, he must say that whilst admitting that some amendment of the law was expedient, and, although he thought it was of great importance that the amendment should, if possible, be proposed and adopted—as he hoped it would be—with the concurrence of reasonable and moderate men, who, on former occasions, entertained conflicting views on the subject, still he was not prepared either to propose or to advocate any amendment of the law which would be inconsistent, he would not say with the letter of the Act of 1847, but with the main object for which restrictions were imposed on the labour of women and children employed in factories. The House would, perhaps, allow him to take a rapid glance at the course of legislation on this subject. The Act of 1833 enacted that no young person should work at night in a factory, and the night was defined to be between half-past eight in the evening and half-past five in the morning, leaving a period of fifteen hours during which young persons might be employed; but by the second section of the Act it was provided that no young person should be actually engaged in working for more than twelve hours out of the fifteen, and the sixth section of the Act also provided that one hour and a half should be allowed for meals. Under that Act it was beyond all doubt lawful to employ young persons at any periods between half-past 5 A.M. and half-past 8 P.M., provided that the time during which they were so employed did not exceed twelve hours. By the 7th and 8th of Victoria, c. 15, sec. 32, the Act of 1844, women were classed with young persons, and became subject to the same regulations. Sections 30 and 31 regulated the hours of work for children. Section 26 provided that the hours of work of children and young persons in every factory were to be reckoned from the time when any child or young person should first begin to work in the morning in such factory. The definition of night remained 902 unchanged. It was then lawful to employ young persons and females at any period of the day between 5.30 A.M. and 8.30 P.M., provided the whole period did not exceed twelve hours. But the 26th section contained this important provision, that the commencement of the hours of working for all young persons was to be the same. The next Act was the 10th and 11th of Victoria, c. 29, by which the hours of labour were reduced, first to eleven, and then to ten. His noble Friend contended that the ten hours should be continuous. Conflicting decisions were made by the magistrates. The factory inspectors took the same view of the matter as the noble Lord, and the question being referred to the law advisers of the Government, they decided in favour of that view, which was also coincident with the opinion held by successive Ministers themselves. But the opinion of the Home Secretary and of the law officers of the Crown did not constitute the law, and the question having ultimately been carried to a court of competent jurisdiction, a decision had been given which declared that, under the Act, it was not necessary that the ten hours' labour should be continuous, He had not a word to say against the arguments by which the judgment of the Court of Exchequer was supported, but the construction which it gave to the law was open to serious practical objection. There could be no doubt, as the noble Lord had stated, that a strong feeling prevailed, not only amongst workmen, but employers, that legislative interference was necessary to avert the inconveniences which must result from a strict adherence to the construction which had been put on the law by incontestable authority. The object of the limitation of the hours of labour was, in his opinion, twofold—to promote, first, the physical, and, secondly, the social improvement of the classes to which it applied. It was not desirable to revive discussion as to the injury which it was alleged protracted labour in factories inflicted on the persons who were subjected to it; but it was notorious that one of the main grounds on which the noble Lord and others advocated the restriction of the hours of labour was the physical injury caused by it. The noble Lord was of opinion that the system of relays and shifts were equally prejudicial to health; but he (Sir G. Grey) thought that there was a distinction between shifts and relays, and that under proper regulations a 903 system of relays would be perfectly compatible with the physical object of the restriction or the hours of labour. In such a system of relays the labour would be cuntinuous, while in the shift system it might be opened over the whole fifteen hours with various intervals of rest. He did not, however, think that either of these systems was acceptable generally to the millowners or the workpeople. Before adverting to the moral part of the question, be must be permitted to observe that the noble Lord lost sight of the distinction which the law observed between different classes of persons employed in factory labour. Whatever might be the effect of the restriction placed upon the labour of young persons, it evidently was not the intention of the Legislature to impose any restriction on the labour of adults, yet many of the instances of moral improvement to which the noble Lord had referred as resulting from the operation of the ten-hour clause were furnished by adult males. There could, however, be no doubt that one of the objects which the Legislature had in view in restricting the hours of labour of women and children was to provide those classes with opportunities for moral and social improvement. It was expected that females would have time in the evenings to attend to the instruction of their children and to their domestic affairs. It was with much satisfaction that he was able to say, that in a moral point of view the result of restricting the hours of labour had equalled all that the most sanguine advocates of the measure anticipated from it. The reports of the inspectors of factories, of ministers of religion, and all authentic information which had reached him from various quarters, proved that women and young persons duly appreciated the advantages they derived from the operation of the ten-hour Act. Schools had been opened, and instruction had proceeded to an extent not before known—instruction, not only in reading and writing, but in needlework and those branches of industry which were essential to the comfort of a well-ordered family of the lower classes. It might be remembered, too, that when the Bill was under discussion, it was predicted that the harmony which, up to that time, had subsisted between employers and employed, would thenceforth be liable to disturbance; but it was only just to the great body of millowners to say that the beneficial results to which 904 he had just adverted were, in a great measure, owing to their cordial concurrence in the spirit and tenor of the Act of 1847. Many of the millowners who opposed the Act in its progress had seen cause to modify their opinions; and if they were now not prepared to go to the same length as the noble Lord, they were at least disposed to agree to a measure framed, if not to the letter, yet in the spirit of the Act of 1847. He thought, however, that the shift system deprived the parties of the advantages of the limitation. As an illustration of the shift system, one of the factory inspectors stated that a manufacturer divided his hands into six sets, all of whom commenced working at the same time—six in the morning—in order to comply with the 26th section of the Act; but then all but one set, after merely drawing out an end, were taken off and obliged to return at later periods of the day. One girl who lived at no great distance from the factory stated that she went home again, and got into bed until she was wanted again at the factory. Another girl, who walked some miles to her work, said she was obliged to spend her time in an eating-house until her hour for resuming work in the factory arrived. It could not be denied that it must be a great inconvenience to females to be thus obliged to wait about for several hours on a dark winter's morning. The inspectors said, in allusion to this and similar cases—Thus the beneficent intentions of the Act are frustrated, and the hours of rest are unnecessarily curtailed.A letter which he had received that day from Mr. Saunders, one of the factory inspectors, contained the following passage—Neither relays nor shifts of young persons or women prevail in any considerable number of mills in my district; nevertheless, the number of parties who have applied for information, and the complaints made as to the general effect of the system on a certain class of workpeople, induce me to apprehend that other mill-occupiers will resort to it, unless the Act be amended, and the practice cither altogether prevented or strictly regulated.…In every case that I have visited, great dissatisfaction has been expressed at the necessity of adopting so complicated a system, especially the necessity of reckoning or computing the hours of work from the early hour—in almost all the desire has been expressed that relays or shifts should be prevented. It will of course be understood that I have excluded all reference to relaya of children.The question was, how the benefit intend- 905 ed to be conferred by the amendment of the law could best be secured with the least injury to the parties whoso interests were concerned. He would not be prepared to consent to an amendment of the law which was inconsistent with the enactment of 1847, or with the attainment of the main object of its promoters, namely, to give the persons to whom it applied that opportunity of duly attending to domestic duties which would be afforded by the free, uninterrupted enjoyment of their evening hours. Those persons had shown that they were able to appreciate that enactment. With respect to the proposal of his noble Friend, he understood him to say that proceeding on a clear and undisputed intention of the Legislature, he desired to enact that the labour of all persons of this class should be continuous labour for not more than ten hours. He (Sir G. Grey) did not go the length of his noble Friend in saying that the intention of Parliament was clear to that effect. His noble Friend quoted from Mr. Inspector Horner's report a passage, in which Mr. Horner said—I can speak from positive knowledge, that it was the intention of the framers of the Bill of 1844 that the working by shifts, which had been practised under the Act of 1833, should be prevented.His noble Friend rather assumed Mr. Horner's statement to be what he (Sir G. Grey) did not think it was. His noble Friend assumed that it referred, not to the Bill of 1844, but to the Act of 1844. He assumed it as a matter free from doubt, that Parliament had the intention which he alleged. The intention of Parliament, however, must be deduced from the Act of Parliament, not from any debates in that House. There was no doubt the statement of Mr. Horner was perfectly correct as regarded the Bill of 1844 when first introduced. It would be observed by those who had read the judgment of the Court of Exchequer, that the remark was made, if it had been the intention of Parliament clearly to enact that the hours of labour for persons of this class should not only begin simultaneously but end simultaneously, they would have inserted a provision that the hours of labour should so end simultaneously when ten hours had elapsed. That was precisely what was done in the Bill of 1844, to which, no doubt, Mr. Horner's observation referred. That Bill contained a clause which was precisely in accordance with 906 what Mr. Baron Parke said might have been the terms of the Act of Parliament. The 8th clause of the Bill was as follows:—Be it enacted, that no young person, and no female of any age, shall be employed in a factory in any one day more than twelve hours, or after the expiration of twelve hours from the time when any child or young person in the factory first begins to work in the morning, over and above the time given for meal times, save in the cases hereinafter exceptedThese were explicit words, "after the expiration of twelve hours" from the time of beginning to work. There was an unambiguous clause, a clause which could have left no doubt as to the intention of the Legislature. The intention of the framers of the Bill was to put an end to working by shift or relay. But the House was dealing not with the intentions of Mr. Horner, or of his right hon. Friend opposite the Member for Ripon, who introduced the Bill, but with the intentions of the Parliament which passed that Bill. The Bill, as originally introduced, was withdrawn. Clause 8 was found wanting in the new Bill, and a substitute was proposed for that clause in Section 26, which was differently worded. Whether these views were right or wrong with respect to the intention of the measure, what he meant to ask the House was not hastily to assume that Mr Horner was referring to the Act of 1844, as contained in the Statute-book; as there appeared to be ground for presuming a change of intention, and that for some reason or other a provision which would have removed all doubts was excluded from the measure. The judgment of the Court of Exchequer stated, that however their opinion might be, that it was the intention of Parliament to fix a period for the cessation of labour:—We must, then, consider whether, in the absence of express words to this effect, we can collect from other parts of the Act that was the meaning of the Legislature so clearly and unequivocally as to call upon us to give effect to it."Undoubtedly," the judgment proceeded to say—Undoubtedly, if there was such an enactment, it would have the effect of securing to the children and young persons whom it, was most certainly the object of the Legislature to protect against their own improvidence, or that of their parents, the more effectual superintendence and care of the inspectors. Without question it would more certainly prevent them from being overworked, and secure to them more completely the benefit of some education in public schools which 907 the Legislature meant them to enjoy—it would advance the intended remedy. But then this result could only have been obtained by a larger sacrifice of the interests of the owners of factories, and we cannot assume that Parliament would disregard so important a consideration.His noble Friend did not propose a declaratory Bill, though the notice he had given seemed to point to such a measure. However he might have argued the case, the Bill was free from all exception in respect of the form in which it was proposed, because his noble Friend did not call on the House to declare the law to be what the Court of Exchequer had declared not to be the law. He (Sir G. Grey) would offer no opposition to the introduction of the Bill, but he cherished the hope that means might be found to combine persons holding different opinions on the subject—those who had been formerly hostile to the enactment under which the case had arisen as well as those who had supported it—to combine all parties in one movement for the purpose of securing to the classes to whom the Act of 1847 related opportunities for instruction, recreation, and the discharge of their domestic duties. Whether that result were attainable remained to be seen; but he did not think the object of the noble Lord could be attained till he reverted to another principle in the Bill of 1844, which it was to be regretted had not found its way into the Statute-book, which the noble Lord had himself advocated in that House, and which consisted in making an alteration in the definition of "night," by which the range of hours for labour would have been reduced. It was a matter for consideration whether that was not the best mode of proceeding. Great and important interests were at stake; and by personal communication with gentlemen holding different opinions on the subject, and with the inspectors of factories, he had endeavoured to ascertain what was the real injury done to the classes whose interests were involved in the matter, with the view of applying a remedy, which in the spirit of the Act of 1847 might be most conducive to the object they desired to accomplish. The noble Lord alluded to the opinion of Mr. Eccles, and adverted to the impossibility he conceived to exist of ever enforcing penalties for a breach of the law under existing circumstances. This very case of Messrs. Hopgood, in which a magistrate, who had been a strong-opponent of the Factory Acts, pronounced the decision, showed that it was not impossible to obtain full justice for per- 908 sons overworked. The facts of the case, which was tried at the sessions in Blackburn, were remarkable. There were no less than fifty cases in which penalties were sought to be recovered; and the amount of penalties imposed on Messrs. Hopgood was 70l. Speaking of the Act of 1847, Mr. Eccles said—If, in this instance, the violation of it had been a slight one; if it had been only for a few minutes, we should have thought that we were dealing hard with Messrs. Hopgood to make them accountable for such a slight violation; or if we had any grounds to believe that it took place without their connivance—without their fully knowing of it.And he went on to say—I will not say that in every instance a master can prevent an infraction of the Act, but he should take care that there is no material violation of it. I cannot help taking this opportunity of saying that since the Act came into operation, young people have seemed to me to be more clean, and healthy, and comfortable than they were before. That is my impression, and I, for one, shall feel exceedingly sorry to see any material change in it.With respect to the specific remedy pro" posed by the noble Lord, he (Sir G. Grey) wished to keep himself unfettered. He was unwilling to make any propositions till the matter had advanced further, and it should be seen what were the prospects of effecting a settlement without bringing into collision those classes whose interests were so closely combined. He did not know whether the noble Lord had not acted wisely in the course he had taken, and he trusted the result would be to bring about a satisfactory arrangement.
§ MR. BANKES
said, that the right hon. Baronet had with his usual candour stated the real views which he entertained on this subject. They, however, who acted in eon-cert with his noble Friend the Member for Bath, being anxious for a speedy decision upon the point, could not but regret that the right hon. Gentleman's mind should not be made up, and that the Government should not be prepared to give any answer to the present application. It was a matter that must be decided at no very distant time, and he believed that the Government, as well as the House generally, would feel greatly obliged to his noble Friend for taking up the question, since the Government had declined to do so. It was most injurious to the masters, as well as the operatives, to allow the question to remain in its present state. It appeared that the difficulty arose not from the last statute of 1847, but from a clause which 909 had been introduced into the Bill of 1844. He hoped, that before they proceeded much farther into the discussion of this question, they would have the advantage of being enlightened by the former Secretary of State for the Home Office as to what the real state of the case was when this Act of 1844 was passed. The Bill had been introduced in 1844 by his noble Friend the Member for Bath, who having reason to understand that it would be sanctioned by the Government, he gave up into their hands the conduct of the measure. It was, consequently, a matter of surprise to him to find that when the Bill was passed into a law, it did not contain that which he considered the main principle of the measure. Although no person would call into question the decision of the Court of Exchequer, it should be recollected that it was not pronounced until after much argument and some degree of doubt on the part of the learned Judges. Previous to this decision being pronounced, decisions of a very opposite character had been given by judges of an inferior tribunal. Consequently it might be assumed that the law would bear that interpretation which by many was put upon it. In consequence of the decision pronounced by the superior Judges, his noble Friend was compelled to apply to that House for a remedy. His noble Friend had confined his speech simply to the one point, namely, that of proposing to enact that that should be the law which was understood to be the law when the Acts of 1844 and 1847 were passed. He thought that the Bill should be rather an enacting than a declaratory Bill; because, if it were the latter, it might seem to imply a doubt against the decision of the Judges of the land. When the Act was under discussion in that House, it was viewed in the light of a measure that proposed in its consequences to confine the work of the operatives to ten hours only, for this was the only difficulty which the opponents to the measure had to grapple with. These restrictions upon the time during which the operatives were to work, commenced as far back as 1833; and subsequently they were slowly and cautiously increased, according as the experiment was found to answer. The first measure was one having reference to children only. A measure was subsequently introduced, which was made applicable to all young persons under 18 years of age. The result of these enactments was found to be most advantageous, for, without injuring the manufacturers, they conferred 910 great and acknowledged benefits upon the operatives. They found that both the moral and physical condition of the operatives was considerably improved by these measures. They found that all the predictions made by the opponents to these Bills had been falsified, and the hopes of those who entertained a favourable view of these restrictions had been more than realised. In regard to the intentions of the Legislature in 1844, it was not in his power to speak with confidence, inasmuch as the want of practical knowledge to justify him in forming a sound opinion as to the possible operations of that measure, made him hesitate in taking a prominent part in favour of this Bill. He did not become a strong adherent to the principle therein propounded until he had given the subject much consideration. He felt generally satisfied when be had the authority of his noble Friend in all such works of benevolence; but were it not for the great authority of Mr. Fielden upon the subject, he never should have been induced to concur in the votes which he then gave. In 1844, however, he merely took the humble part of giving a silent vote. But when, from time to time, he heard such favourable reports of this measure, that no evil result whatever had arisen from these restrictions of the working hours—when he heard, on the contrary, that great benefits were springing up, and great improvements were effected in the physical as well as the moral condition of the operatives, he then did feel himself fully justified in following up more earnestly the course which he had before so cautiously taken. At a subsequent period, when his noble Friend was not in Parliament, he (Mr. Bankes) came forward in his absence to take, as far as he could, that part which he knew the noble Lord would have taken if he were present. Accordingly, in 1847, he did take an active part in the passing of that measure, and he could positively state that it was the feeling upon all sides of the House that it was a Ten Hours Bill they were about to confirm; because, although it was true that that enactment did not touch adults, they were told by the manufacturers on all sides that the effect of such a Bill would be to limit the hours of all workmen. The idea of relays or shifts was never entertained then by any person; and from what the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary had said, these relays or shifts had been resorted to by comparatively few manufacturers. This 911 Bill was then intended to protect those who did not resort to that system, which they thought would be beneficial to neither operatives nor manufacturers; but unless such an enactment was passed they might be forced to adopt the same system upon the principle of self-defence. In the largest manufacturing districts he understood that this practice was altogether unknown, and they now desired to restrain those who had adopted it. They had been told that in the Bill of 1844 there was, when the Bill was first introduced, a clause expressly referring to this system of relays, and he believed that the predecessor of the right hon. Baronet would not deny that there was no intention at that time of sanctioning such a system. This, therefore, was not unjustly called an evasion of the Act. He did not use the expression in any offensive way. He did not mean to throw out the insinuation that the manufacturers entertained any design to evade the law. He could not say so, for it appeared by the decision of the Judges of the superior courts that they had not violated any law. These parties, however, would not deny that this practice was not supposed to be legal either in 1844 or in 1847; and it was not resorted to until there was an extraordinary demand for our fabrics, which of course was a circumstance that occasioned much rejoicing. The experiment was then made as to whether the system could or could not be resorted to. If he did not believe that the measure now submitted to the House by his noble Friend would prove beneficial to the manufacturers as well as to the operatives, he should hesitate to give it his support. He believed that the measure was one that in nowise ran counter to the sound principles of political economy, and that it was merely intended to confirm a law which had been found to confer the greatest blessings upon all parties concerned. He was strengthened in that opinion by the authority of an hon. Member of great talent and distinction, who addressed the House upon the subject when the Bill of 1844 was under discussion. He would read from Hansard the opinions of that hon. Gentleman, for the purpose of showing the impressions of those who then took part in the debate. The hon. Gentleman, whose name he would withhold until he had quoted the observations to which he referred, said—If we enlarge the various markets for our productions—if we allow a full and fair exchange of our commodities for the corn, and sugar, and 912 coffee of other countries—this would be the practical means of raising the value of our products, and consequently of raising the value of that labour which produces them. So that, indeed, then ten hours' labour might be as good or better than what twelve hours' labour was now for the pockets of the labourer, and might produce as much profit to the master.This was the speech of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire now, who was then the hon. Member for Stockport. The hon. Gentleman spoke of a Ten Hours Bill as being the point in question, and he said that if they increased the demand for their produce, they would be at the same time enhancing the price of labour—that if they allowed corn, and tea, and sugar to come into the country, they would find that ten hours' work would be as good as the twelve hours which the operatives were then obliged to give. He (Mr. Bankes) would feel himself justified in calling upon that hon. Gentleman when he saw him in his place to fulfil those expectations which he held out in 1844. The hon. Member said, that when the demands which he then made were fulfilled, he, on his part, would admit that the advantages which would accrue would be such as had been stated. The question now for their consideration was, whether they could safely give the ten hours asked in favour of the operatives. Let those who were opposed to this demand now state, from their experience and practical knowledge, what mischiefs and difficulties had ever arisen from the experiment that they had already tried. He did not believe that they could do so. He had seen manufacturers and labourers from different parts of the kingdom upon this subject, and he declared he had not the slightest doubt but that those alterations in the law had worked most beneficially up to this time, and had given the greatest satisfaction to the people.
§ MR. M. GIBSON
said, the hon. Gentleman had stated in more direct terms than those used by the noble Lord the Member for Bath, what was the real object of the Ten Hours Bill. He told them plainly and distinctly that one object of that Bill was to limit adult male labour.
§ MR. M. GIBSON
said, the hon. Gentleman had stated that such was the intention of those who passed it.
§ MR. BANKES
said, the right hon. Gentleman misrepresented his meaning. He had not spoken of the intention, but of the necessary consequence.
§ MR. M. GIBSON
had certainly understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the limitation of the hours of adult labour had been the object, but he submitted to the hon. Gentleman's explanation. He must, hovever, say, that if that were the object, the best course would be to include male adults in so many words in the Bill. His object in rising, however, was to guard against the supposition that by consenting to the introduction of this Bill, he sanctioned the plan shadowed forth by the noble Lord the Member for Bath. He used the words "shadowed forth," because the noble Lord had not explained in a definite and clear manner the precise nature of the scheme which he proposed. So far as he understood the noble Lord's plan, it did not seem to him likely to obtain the sanction of the House. He admitted that in its present state the law required some alteration. He believed that the whole difficulty arose from the circumstance that the clauses of a Twelve Hours Bill were imported without due consideration into a Ten Hours Bill. Parliament, in fact, did little more than substitute "ten" for "twelve," thus evincing, as usual, what he must be permitted to describe as the little consideration with which that House had dealt with great and important inter-eats. He did not know precisely whether the Twelve Hours Bill prohibited relays and shifts or not; some thought that it did, and such, he admitted, might have been the intention of its framers. But, in truth, the effect of the clauses of the Twelve Hours Bill was never thoroughly tested until there arose a necessity or desire to have recourse to the relay system under the Ten Hours Bill; and when the Ten Hours Bill came to be worked with the clauses imported into it from the Twelve Hours Bill, it was found that the probable intentions of the framers of the last measure were not carried out, and the courts had decided that the relay system was not prevented. He never thought the clauses of the Twelve Hours would work with a Ten Hours Bill. On the framers of the measure, who had undertaken to regulate employment in factories, must rest the blame of the difficulties which had arisen. They supplied the law, and were responsible for it. The manufacturers and millowners were not justly chargeable with having sought to evade the law. Much as they might have objected on principle to legislative interference with the hours of labour, he believed he might declare with truth 914 that they had, for the most part, earnestly desired to carry out honestly the intentions of the Legislature. They might have denied that it was good policy to interfere at all; they might have doubted whether the Legislature consulted the best interests of the country in enacting such a measure as the Ten Hours Bill; but he could not admit that when that measure had been placed on the Statute-book they had systematically endeavoured to evade it. They had merely used those powers, and availed themselves of those rights, which the Legislature had in the enactment placed at their disposal. He must say that he thought the noble Lord had allowed his feelings to lead him into no little exaggeration in reference to the effects of the factory legislation. In speaking of the condition of the labouring classes, be took credit for the improvement, as if it were entirely owing to this imperfect factory legislation, not saying one word about those important changes in our commercial system which had recently taken place, though he (Mr. M. Gibson) believed that those beneficial alterations contributed far more to the improvement of the physical condition of the great mass of those who were employed in factories than any of the regulations which had been imposed on factory labour. He thought it only fair to make that remark; and he must add that the improvement referred to was observable in the case of other trades and occupations, besides those which were included in the Factory Bill of 1847. He repeated that he thought the noble Lord's feelings had carried him away, and had led him to make too highly coloured a statement with regard to the effects of the Factory Bill. With respect to the case mentioned by the noble Lord, that of a bishop in the north, the bishop in Dundee, he believed, who had observed such a marked improvement since the reduction of the hours of labour—[Lord ASHLEY: I said no such thing.] He had understood the noble Lord to state, on the authority of the bishop, that the congregations had increased, and that a greater desire had been manifested for spiritual instruction. [Lord ASHLEY: I said not a word about it.] With all deference for the noble Lord, he must say that such representations ought not to weigh with that House. If the twelve hours' system had produced the degrading and demoralising effects which the noble Lord had described, in was inconceivable that the imperfect and partial adoption of the ten hours' system—for such 915 the noble Lord himself admitted it to have been—should, in the course of a year and a half, have turned all these great sinners into comparative saints, and wrought such an enormous change in the feelings and habits of the people employed in factories in so short a period of time. He thought the noble Lord's speech was on the whole marked by what might be called a socialist and sentimental tone. It was not a speech suited to the character of that assembly—which was a business and practical assembly, alive, of course, to whatever bore on the physical and moral welfare of the bulk of the population, but not to be addressed in those sentimental and impassioned appeals, and with a tissue of representations which, he was certain, the noble Lord himself would, on calmer reflection, feel to have been exaggerated. Not having the details of the noble Lord's measure before him, without saying that the law ought to remain as it stood at present, he should reserve to himself the right of offering any opposition which might seem to him desirable on the second reading.
§ MR. O'CONNOR
wondered how the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down could reconcile his speech with the Motion of which he had given notice for next Thursday, as to the best means of instructing the working classes of this country. When the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary spoke of being afraid of creating "an antagonism," it was pretty evident that the antagonism the right hon. Gentleman was afraid of was losing the support of the hon. Gentlemen who sat behind him, who lived upon the labour of the poor and unprotected factory infants. The right hon. Member for Manchester had charged the noble Lord the Member for Bath with making a lax speech; but the right hon. Member must have discovered that be himself was standing on a weak crutch in that respect, after the very limping and incoherent speech he had made. All that he (Mr. O'Connor) asked was, that the House should put its own construction on the Act in question, and so promote the amelioration of the people. When they talked of the ignorance of the working classes, they must surely be aware that it was caused by the tyranny of the manufacturers. He denied that it was intended by this Bill to limit adult labour to ten hours a day. There was nothing of the kind in the noble Lord's Bill; but he (Mr. O'Connor) contended that it was only right and just that this should be done. 916 The manufacturers had taunted the landed proprietors with harshness and indifference towards the agricultural labourers, but they were never called upon to work more than eleven hours a day; but in the manufacturing districts the workmen were often engaged sixteen hours a day, and they at other times were employed only three days in a week, and had to pay the same rent for their holdings as if they had six days' work. A labourer in the manufacturing districts was worn out as much at the age of twenty-eight as an agricultural labourer was in Dorsetshire at fifty-three. They stood in the same relative situation towards each other as a race horse and an agricultural horse did; the former was worn out at five years of age, while the latter lasted twenty years. If the manufacturers had a spark of humanity, they would not allow the persons labouring for them to remain in their present condition. Was it not the common case now, that a mother, on hearing the factory bell, was obliged to take her child from her breast and throw it to a stranger to take care of, while she rushed off to her labour in the factory to get a bit of bread? The representatives of the manufacturing districts knew that the Government were dependent on them when they were in a fix, so that their power was very great in that House; but still when they went down to the manufacturing districts, what apologies would they make to the great bulk of the inhabitants for the votes they would give on this subject? He was sure no one would be against the measure of the noble Lord who would not be branded hereafter as an enemy to his fellow-creatures. People talked about the condition of the agricultural labourers, and of the way in which they were treated by their employers! Why, let them look at a Dorsetshire labourer, and compare him with a manufacturing operative from Lancashire or Yorkshire; the one was as decrepit, old, and worn out at twenty-eight as the other was at fifty-three. Let them see this, and compare the factory children with the healthy, stalwart little fellows in the agricultural districts—and he asked whether they must not admit that the factory system of this country was an abomination, and reflected dishonour and disgrace upon the legislation of this country? There was a man who had done more than any other person in this country for the operative classes, and whom the noble Lord the Prime Minister had had the audacity and impertinence—[Cries of "Chair! "and"Order!"] 917 —he repeated it, for it was no more audacious for him (Mr. O'Connor) to do so than for the noble Lord to have charged the philanthropist to whom he alluded—Mr. Richard Oastler—with all but treason and rebellion, on account of his unexampled efforts on behalf of the labouring classes. If there were to be any investigation of this matter, that gentleman could give the House a true and fair account of the factory children. If he were asked to place his hand upon the men who lived exclusively upon the sinews, marrow, bones, and blood of women and children, if he could group them all in one lump, he would put his hand upon the master manufacturers of this country. He would only add, in conclusion, if there were ever a body of tyrants which existed in any country, it was the manufacturers of England.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester had accused his noble Friend who had brought forward this measure of yielding too much to his enthusiastic zeal. In the first place, he (Sir R. Inglis) believed that nothing good had ever been effected in this world except by those whom many of their co-temporaries had called enthusiasts. That great work, the Reformation, by Luther and his compeers, was called an act of enthusiasm, and so it had ever been with any great work, and it was to the credit of the noble Lord that his exertions had been so designated by the right hon. Member for Manchester. The speech of his noble Friend was, however, as little open to the charge as any he had ever heard, as it was a speech filled with facts. Was it enthusiasm to state as a fact that, since the introduction of the measure three years since, fifty-nine night schools had been opened in Leeds for the young persons engaged in the day time in the factories? Was this an instance of the imaginative feeling; of his noble Friend? Was it also a piece of imagination to refer to the fact, that since that time there had been such an increase in the amount of deposits in the savings banks? The right hon. Gentleman might say it was not post hoc, ergo propter hoc in this case; but if he urged that those improvements were not to be attributed to the operation of the Factory Act, it was for the right hon. Gentleman to assign another cause. He (Sir R. Inglis) would ask whether, if wheat had been at 80s. the quarter, it would have altered the fact as to the situation of these schools? It was suggested that those subjects for congratu- 918 lation might not have resulted from the Ten Hours Bill; at any rate, the people had done in the course of the last two years and a half what they had not done before; and he contended that a great deal at all events of the observable improvement in the labouring classes depended not upon the cheapness of articles and the free-trade tenets of the Manchester school, but on the use which they had made of the leisure secured to them. They were all agreed happily upon this one point, that the state of the law was uncertain, and that the measure of the noble Lord must be introduced. [An Hon. MEMBER: The law is not at all uncertain.] He retracted the expression as to the uncertainty of the law; but he would maintain that there never was a decision of a court of law, however well-founded it might be as to the mere verbal construction of the statute, which had been more unexpected, or which was more contrary to the intentions of the framers of the Act. Under these circumstances—having endeavoured to state to the House that his noble Friend, eminent, as he was, and had always been, for his untiring energy and zeal, and for the devotion of his great and high talents to high and holy purposes—had never condescended to use for the accomplishment of his objects anything but a direct appeal to stern facts—having so far defended his noble Friend, he would not further trespass on the time of the House except to express a hope that the hon. Member for Manchester, who he saw was about to address the House, would imitate the enthusiasm for good which had distinguished his noble Friend throughout the whole course of his life.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, that all must admit that the Bill proposed to be brought in was intended to settle what was in some degree an unsatisfactory state of the law. He had not risen for the purpose of entering into the main question, but rather to express an opinion, which he was anxious to do at that early stage of the discussion, on a point which he thought of quite as much importance as the question of the particular words to be introduced into the Bill, or the exact time during which factories were to be permitted to work. He was, as the House knew, connected in business with concerns which came under the operation of the Factory Act: and of one thing he was most thoroughly convinced, namely, that for the beneficial working of any factory legislation, it was of the first importance that it should pass 919 that House and become law, with a fair amount of concurrence on the part of the employers as well as of the employed. One of the great faults of the Ten Hours Bill was that it had not had that concurrence on the part of the employing class; and, without entering into any discussion as to the hours, he would merely state that from his own experience and observation, he could assure the House that the working classes did not gain as much by the concession of half an hour, or even of an hour, in the time of working, as they would gain by the operation of a law which was received by the employers as a fair law, and which the employers generally were willing to carry out in a fair spirit. He had known many cases himself, and, if he were at liberty to state details, he could convince the House that there were many cases in which the working people in many concerns had been placed under disadvantages which they would not otherwise have suffered if this law had not been carried to that extreme length which created hostile feelings on the part of the capitalist classes, and induced them to abstain (and there were cases in which they did abstain) from entering into a system of co-operation with the working people, which would be beneficial to them, and which would have taken place if the estrangement which had arisen out of the law had not existed. He was not about to say a word about the Ten Hours Bill; but he merely made an appeal to the noble Lord the Member for Bath, who knew full well the importance of this suggestion. The noble Lord was not bound down to the doctrine which had been inculcated by the Ten Hours Bill, and was not indisposed to take a course which might bring about a settlement of this question different from that which was contained in the Bill which was laid before them that night. He (Mr. Bright) had been led to believe that not a small portion of the working classes, and a very large portion of the employing classes, were willing to approach the question with a more moderate disposition than that which they formerly entertained; and if Gentlemen opposite were sincerely anxious that the working people should receive the greatest amount of good out of such legislation, they should endeavour, in some degree, to meet the views of those large employers of labour, without whose co-operation and concurrence it was quite impossible that this question could be finally and satisfactorily settled. He should 920 not now make any reply to the coarse vituperation of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nottingham. That hon. Gentleman had tried his hand at bettering the condition of the factory labourers, and had invited them from the districts where they were well employed and well paid, and had allured them on to his lands, and then had left them in a quagmire of misery and despair. And when the hon. Gentleman returned to those operatives the contributions which he had induced them to lay out in his most foolish scheme, then he would have more reason to stand on the floor of that House to advocate the cause of those who worked in the factories. He (Mr. Bright) would only state that the cause which he advocated with regard to this question, and those who advocated it, could receive no injury whatever from any calumnies that might come from the hon. Member. The hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford, as might be expected, had spoken in a very different spirit. He joined the hon. Baronet in thinking that the term enthusiast had been often applied to some who were engaged in noble and generous pursuits; but yet it did not follow from that that all those who were enthusiasts were engaged in noble pursuits. The noble Lord made a speech in which he pictured the condition of the manufacturing districts. He (Mr. Bright) admitted that the necessary consequence of reducing the hours of labour in the manufacturing districts was, that beneficial results in some directions would follow. The noble Lord made speeches some years ago of a very different complexion. At that time he spoke as if he were the hired advocate—when he used the words "hired advocate" he hoped that the noble Lord would not misunderstand him—he meant to say that he appeared as if he were the pledged advocate of those who were anxious to paint, in the blackest colours, the condition of the manufacturing districts. But on the present occasion he had spoken as if he were engaged on the other side, and as if his object was to paint an entirely different picture. The noble Lord attributed the whole of the improvement which had taken place to the passing of the Ten Hours Bill of 1847. If so, it was surely a most extraordinary fact, that under the operation of the Twelve Hours Bill the demoralisation and degradation of the operatives should have reached such an extreme point that it was necessary for Parliament to interfere, and that the mo- 921 ment the Ten Hours Bill came into operation in May, 1848—[Lord ASHLEY: The Eleven Hours Bill was in operation in 1847.] Yes; but the noble Lord must be aware that during 1847 the factories in Lancashire were not employed more than eight hours a day, owing to the failure of the cotton crop. The Ten Hours Bill, as he had said, did not come into operation until the month of May, 1848; and surely it was enthusiasm, after all, to suppose that that demoralised and degraded people, the moment the Ten Hours Bill passed, should be full of anxiety for schools, and books, and savings hanks, and all sorts of improvements. The noble Lord had proved a great deal too much. Let him look back to the year 1841, when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth came into office. The manufacturing districts were then in deep distress, and hon. Gentlemen opposite refused almost to credit the heartrending details of the sufferings of the people. After the good harvest of 1842, some improvement was visible; and in 1843, 1844, and 1845, a great change took place, and it was observable that the chapels and the schools were much better attended. That improvement arose from causes which could not he traced to any Factory Act; and whether the Act of 1847 had passed or not, and other changes had taken place which did take place, the improved condition of the people would have been hardly distinguishable from that which existed at the present moment. He thought that a proposition on the question introduced by the noble Lord should have come before the House in some shape or other, and for this reason, that under the present system the adult men had some ground of complaint, inasmuch as the margin of from half-past five o'clock, A.M., to half-past eight o'clock, P.M., showed that a man may be induced, if not forced, to work more than twelve—aye, more than thirteen hours per day. Under the restrictions which had been fixed on labour, the employers were disposed, perhaps, to go a little further than they were inclined before this legislation had taken place. Mills had been worked under the system of relays, and the men were worked the whole of the time while the mills were at work. The condition of these men was, therefore, worse than it was before this Act was passed, when they were never asked to work more than twelve hours. Under these severe restrictions relays were introduced, and adults were 922 worked more than twelve hours. He should be sorry that a practice should arise from any cause whatever which would compel men to work more than twelve or thirteen hours per day. He did not wish to speak further on the subject of the Bill, but he asked the House to come to the consideration of the subject in a spirit different from that which actuated them in their discussion of the question in 1847. Let them not see that hostility exhibited by Gentlemen on the other side of the House against the manufacturers on his (Mr. Bright's) side of the House. It was his opinion that there could not be a final and satisfactory conclusion arrived at unless there was a fair amount of agreement between the capitalists who paid the wages and the labourers who found the labour. He would now ask the noble Lord the Member for Bath whether, with the influence which he possessed out of doors, representing as he did a large number of persons on this question, not a few of whom were willing to take a fair and a broad view of the question, it would not be possible to come to some arrangement which would meet with the concurrence of the rational of all parties? The hon. Gentleman concluded by observing that it was for the purpose of bringing about this feeling and this mode of settlement that he made this appeal to the noble Lord and to the House.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, if a stranger to that House had been present on that occasion, he must be surprised, when there was no objection to the introduction of the Bill, that the debate should not have ended with the speech of the noble Lord who brought forward the question, and with the observations of the right hon. the Secretary for the Home Department. As there was very important business on the Paper, he would not trouble the House with more than a very few remarks. The right hon. Member for Manchester said this question should be treated as a matter of business, and not as a mere question of humanity. In this opinion he (Mr. Aglionby) perfectly agreed. He also agreed with the hon. Member who spoke last, in professing a hope there would be some degree of harmony and good feeling prevailing in carrying out this measure respecting the factory system; but he could not agree with him in his appeal to the noble Lord to abandon the limit of time for labour which he had proposed in his Bill. The hon. Member intimated that the manufac- 923 turers were prepared for a compromise, if instead of ten hours the noble Lord substituted eleven hours, eleven and a half hours, or twelve hours, but he did not distinctly gay which. If this was persisted in, he (Mr. Aglionby) had no hesitation in saying that all attempts would fail to promote that feeling of harmony which the hon. Member wished to carry out. It was not in human nature, when they had been struggling for years to attain this great end, and for which purpose the noble Lord had been the honest, able, and generous advocate, that these persons shall agree, in consequence of a mistake of the Legislature, to have an advantage taken of them, and that they should consent, from a mere quibble of the law, to the getting rid of that which they had obtained with so much exertion. He believed a most bitter feeling would arise if any such attempt was made, and he warned the hon. Member for Manchester that he could not expect to be successful. From inquiries made of many persons of practical experience, he could say the operation of the last Factory Act had been most successful and beneficial as regarded all the labouring classes who were affected by it. It was the duty of the House of Commons at once to say that it would not allow an error in their legislation to be taken advantage of in the way suggested. He did not charge the millowners with evading the law, for a legal construction had been put upon it by the proper tribunal, and, therefore, they were justified in carrying it out.
§ LORD J. MANNERS
thought it right, after the speeches of the hon. Member for Manchester, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, to express his own determination, and the determination of those who had supported the Ten Hours Act, not to accept any compromise on this question. He announced this intention without the least heat of temper, or the least desire to create that estrangement between the employers and the employed to which the hon. Member for Manchester had alluded. It was his object, in avowing that determination, to prevent this estrangement, and, therefore, he thought it best to assert at once that the working people of Yorkshire and Lancashire—of Scotland, and of the north of Ireland—having obtained, after a struggle of thirty-three years, that which they justly called the Magna Charta of the people, would not abate one tittle of their claim, in the enforcement of which 924 they would be backed by those in the House who felt its justice. He did not intend to enter into the controversy which had sprung up between the hon. Member for Nottingham and the hon. Member for Manchester; but he could not permit the observations of the latter hon. Member, as far as they concerned the noble Lord who had introduced the subject, to go forth unnoticed. The hon. Member had alleged that the noble Lord had suffered his enthusiasm to carry him away, and to attribute to the Bill of 1847 the benefits which were attributable to the course of commercial policy pursued by the House. The noble Lord had come to no such conclusion. His conclusions were drawn from the testimony of those who had furnished him with the statistical information on which he had grounded his statement. It might be that the inspectors of factories, the secretaries of savings banks, and the hardworking clergy, were sentimental enthusiasts; but these were the gentlemen whose character and veracity were not impugned, who had furnished that statistical information on which the noble Lord relied, and whose conclusions the noble Lord had quoted. The hon. Member for Manchester considered that the evils resulting from the shift and relay system, arose from a want of consideration of the question on the part of the House. "Want of consideration!" when the question had been debated in that House, and by the country, for a period of thirty-three years. "Want of consideration!" when it was admitted by the Secretary of State for the Home Department that the flaw in the Act of 1847 arose not from a want, but from a surplusage, of consideration, and that it was on the Bill being withdrawn, and another substituted, the error crept in. They were all agreed that some measure was necessary, and he would defer the observations he was anxious to make until some real opposition were shown to the Bill. Hon. Members on his side of the House would then have an opportunity of vindicating the course which the Legislature had pursued, and of showing that when Her Majesty accepted the affecting testimonial of a grateful and a loyal people. She accepted it from a people fully sensible of the benefits which the Legislature had secured to them, and resolutely determined to maintain them.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
perfectly agreed with the hon. Member for Manchester, that a satisfactory settlement of this question 925 must have the concurrence of the employer and the employed; but not only was there the difficulty that arose from the determined pursuit of a certain object, against any compromise which should affect the ten hours, there was also this difficulty, that no plan was so likely to meet the views of all parties, as a realisation of the scheme which had been believed to exist, which certainly did exist in the generally understood intentions of the Legislature, and which had the concurrence of so large a proportion of those by whom the operatives were employed. He thought that those who resorted to the shift system were an exception to the rule. The inspectors had taken the opinions of masters and operatives on the different suggestions which had been made. Mr. Inspector Homer had taken the opinions of upwards of fifty masters. He found that twenty of them preferred ten hours, twenty-two preferred eleven hours, and fifteen preferred twelve hours. The same inspector had taken the opinions of men and women employed in the factories. The total number consulted was 1,153; the number of men was 651. Of these 651 male operatives, 441 were for the ten hours system, 96 for the eleven hours, and 114 for the twelve hours. Of 502 women, 272 were for ten hours, 51 for eleven hours, and 179 for twelve hours. So that the greater number of males and females, if they were to lose the benefits of the ten-hour system, even preferred twelve to eleven hours. He also coincided in the opinion of the hon. Member for Manchester as to the cause of the present state of things in the manufacturing districts. He did not regard the ten hours as the cause of the present prosperity; he ascribed it to those measures which had made food more cheap and more abundant; but he would remind the hon. Member at the same time that the change would not have produced the result which had been described, had it not been accompanied by the other, and that no cheapness of food could alone have given to the operatives the improvements of education and character, of which they had not been neglectful. He trusted that the noble Lord who had introduced this discussion would adhere most strictly to his terms of not deviating one hair's breadth from what' had been understood to be the design of the enactment of the law as it now existed. There was some suggestion of relays, as distinguished from shifts. He could not 926 understand how that plan would operate. He understood the distinction of relays from shifts to be that relays having filled the hours of continuous labour, were dismissed, and gave the labour to others. The employment on the shift system was to make a small number of persons work longer, by employing them in gangs and parties; but if you introduced two sets at different times of beginning and leaving, it was obvious that the millowner would gain nothing, and must have fewer hands He thought, then, that it was as well to leave the Bill in its present integrity. As to the purpose, which was most distinctly declared by a late Member of the House who introduced the Bill on the last occasion, the opening sentence of his speech was that he meant to restrict women and young persons to twelve hours a day; and within that time to have their meals. The parties most deeply affected were the women and young persons, who, in their dependent condition, were sometimes the objects of harsh treatment, not only by their masters, but also in their own households. Instances had been known in which men had sent their wives and children to the factory, and had betaken themselves to the beer shop. It was an evil against which this Bill provided, and it had been well said, that in cases of children, and in many cases of women, "freedom of contract meant nothing more than freedom of coercion." The benefits which had resulted from this Bill, he was glad to find, were so numerous as to endear the measure to the mass of the people. Having tasted of these benefits, they would surely not be induced easily to relinquish thorn, and he trusted that the law being distinctly declared, there would be a more general concurrence than existed in the minds of the masters, and a close of that agitation, the continuance of which was to be ever deprecated; an agitation which was much worse than a political struggle, because it struck deeper into the social system, and inflicted more serious wounds on the interests of society.
§ LORD R. GROSVENOR
said, it had been propounded that those who had detected the evil now denounced—and sought to apply a remedy—were Communists and Socialists. This was a somewhat portentous accusation, particularly at a time when Communism and Socialism seemed rife and near at hand—paries cùm proximus ardet. But right hon. and hon. Gentlemen need not be alarmed. It was pre- 927 cisely those who, in the following of his noble Friend the Member for Bath aided the work which in this direction he had so long and so ably pursued, that were preventing Socialism and Communism from raising their heads in this country. As to the question whether the present state of things in the manufacturing districts had been produced by the Ten Hours Act, or by the recent legislation on other matters, at all events the operatives seemed to assign the improvement to the former cause. He regretted the fatal hesitation that had manifested itself in the speech of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and could not understand what sort of compromise it was he could possibly invent with any idea of a good result.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
felt that he should fail in the respect due to the House if, after the appeal which had been made to him, he omitted to offer a few observations. As he understood, there was no opposition to the introduction of the Bill; and he was disposed to approach the question in the most dispassionate temper, and to give it his most deliberate consideration. His noble Friend the Member for Bath must excuse him if he said that he thought his noble Friend had himself provoked a discussion of a hostile character, when, before ascertaining whether or not there was to be any opposition to the Bill, he went through all the arguments which were used against the Ten Hours Bill three or four years ago, and proceeded to attempt to refute him with considerable eagerness and with some asperity. He had also been somewhat astonished at the speech of the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion, which seemed to hold out a threat that if the House came to a decision adverse to the wishes and expectations of the operatives, those operatives, who had, under the most trying circumstances, hitherto conducted themselves in a manner above all praise, would depart from the admirable course of conduct they had pursued, and would refuse to submit quietly to the decision of the House. The result of some political experience had long since warned him of the evil of dealing in prophecies as to the future, and he had accordingly religiously abstained from addressing anything of the sort to the House. He was now really beginning to be afraid, also, of making any assertions even with respect to the past; because, had he addressed the House before his right hon. Friend opposite addressed it, it had been 928 his intention to have given his evidence, as a witness, of what occurred when he brought the Factory Bill before the House in 1844; and he should have stated, unequivocally and distinctly, that his object in framing the measure, as introduced, was to prohibit absolutely and peremptorily the shift and relay system in any form whatever; and he should have said that such had been his invariable intention. He would state to the House, as far as his recollection served, what occurred on the occasion. He could not say that at any time, following the bent of his own reasoning on the subject, he was friendly to restrictions interfering with the rights of capital on the one hand, and of labour on the other; but finding, from the representations of Mr. Horner and the other factory inspectors, that the Twelve Hours Act, on account of the introduction of the system of shifts and relays, worked unequally and therefore unjustly, and that its salutary provisions were nugatory because easily evaded, he maturely considered the representations impressed upon him as to the necessity of a direct Act putting an end to the shift and relay system, and, reluctantly consenting to the measure, directed Mr. Horner to have a clause framed giving effect to the views which the inspectors entertained. Up to this point his recollection was distinct, and further, that such a clause was accordingly embodied in the Bill laid before the House. Certainly, until he heard the right hon. Gentleman's statement he was not aware that the shape which the clause bore in the first draught of the Bill had been materially altered in the second; but, as the right hon. Gentleman stated, a most important change had taken place, and having had no opportunity of communicating with any of the inspectors, he could not now state what were the circumstances which led to that important change. It was possible that he might have had interviews with master manufacturers, who might have remonstrated against the stringency of the clause, and that he might have consented to a modification; but his intentions had certainly remained unchanged. He had, however, had no opportunity of refreshing his recollection on the subject, but before the question again came before the House he would ascertain what the facts really were. He considered it most desirable that before the discussion proceeded further, and before hon. Gentlemen pledged themselves as to the course they intended 929 to take, they should see the measure of his noble Friend. He must say, that he thought, from the arguments of the noble Lord, that his Bill would be one of a very stringent description; for he understood his noble Friend's arguments to go the full length of requiring that by Act of Parliament the machinery should be prohibited from running for more than ten hours a day. That, he really believed, was the object desired by the operatives themselves, and was also the object which his noble Friend—if he could accomplish it—would consider most desirable for the social and moral welfare of the working classes engaged in manufactures. The noble Lord appeared to suppose, judging from his arguments, that the manufacturers had nothing to apprehend from such a measure. He (Sir J. Graham) did not wish to revive the old and angry discussions upon this point. It had been his misfortune to have taken much part in those discussions; they had brought him into collision with noble and hon. Friends whom he highly esteemed; but, from a sense of public duty, yielding to his reason, he had done violence to his feelings on this subject. He must say, that his reasons remained unchanged, and his feelings towards the working classes were unaltered—they were kind and warm as they ever had been; but he must assure the House that deliberation upon this subject, unshaken even by the experience of the last three years, led him to believe that if this experiment was carried out in all its consequences, and with its full stringency, the time would come when the working classes themselves would be convinced that the enactment was not conducive to their welfare; and he was satisfied that, in the end, it would also prove inconsistent with the prosperity of the manufacturing interests of this country. That was his deliberate conviction; but, at the same time, He looked upon this as a question of honour on the part of the Legislature. He had stated, he believed, that the original enactment of 1844 was intended to put an end to the shift and relay system. He agreed with the right hon. Member for Manchester that improvidently and hastily the provisions adapted to the Twelve Hours Bill were carried over to the Ten Hours Bill, working very different consequences; but he believed the working classes did understand that they were to have the full benefit of the arrangement with respect to the shift system. There 930 were, on the other hand, circumstances which must not be forgotten or overlooked by the House. The factory inspectors, whose duty it was to carry the Act into operation, came to very opposite conclusions among themselves as to the intention and legal effect of the clause. One of those inspectors, now no more, Mr. James Stuart, to whom was confided the superintendence of all the factories in Scotland and Ireland, permitted the relay system. No complaints were made from Scotland or Ireland, and he (Sir J. Graham) was not aware that any bad effects had been experienced. He might mention one very singular fact, showing the absolute necessity of uniformity if justice was to be done. He understood that in the foreign markets the Scotch manufacturers had had some advantage with respect to the price of their goods over the English manufacturers, clearly showing that the relay system, where it had been in full operation, had been of great benefit and assistance to the manufacturers, and that in close competition it was absolutely necessary that they should have one uniform system and rule. But he believed if his noble Friend wished to be strictly just, such was the stringency of the rule, and the certainty of the desire to evade it, that they would have no perfect equality unless they regulated the run of machinery; and the limitation of ten hours would be so violent and restrictive as to prove ruinous in its results. He had gone further than he intended into the question, and he would only say that he was most anxious to sec the Bill of his noble Friend, and that he would approach its consideration in the most dispassionate temper, and see whether it was possible to give it his support. Before the second reading of the Bill, he would endeavour to refresh bin memory as to what took place between the introduction of the first Bill of 1844 and the subsequent measure in which the change of language was said to have taken place. The right hon. Home Secretary had drawn a distinction between the shift and relay systems. It was quite possible to condemn the one and not to repudiate the other; and although he was aware that compromises were not regarded with much favour, he would remind the House of a saying of Mr. Burke—that, after all, the great art of government was an affair of constant compromise.
§ MR. H. EDWARDS
wished to explain that he had had no intention of holding out 931 any threat. The words he had used were, he believed, that it was the intention of the men of Yorkshire and of Lancashire, by all constitutional means, so to press upon the Government the necessity of keeping faith with the promoters of the Act of 1847, for which they had struggled during a period of thirty years, that he conceived it would be impossible for the Government much longer to resist their demands.
said, that when this question was first brought under discussion, he was opposed to it, considering it to be an attack on the manufacturing interest. Time had gone by, and perhaps the position of things had changed. He had received instructions from his constituents of various classes; the operative classes certainly; from various descriptions of manufacturing capitalists, and it did so happen that all these communications pointed one way. They all said they were anxious that the Ten Hours Bill should be restored to its integrity, and they particularly represented the interest they felt in that part which would give employment to all at the same time; for they said that they had set on foot institutions for education and improvement of various kinds, the carrying on successfully of which did depend mainly on the point, that all in their employ should be liberated at one and the same hour.
§ LORD ASHLEY
, in reply, said that his only object in proposing this Bill was to settle the disputed question as to the continuity of labour. He proposed to enact what had been the received interpretation of the Act of Parliament upon which the factory inspectors had acted, confirmed by the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, that the period of labour for young persons, being limited to ten hours in the day, should be continuous hours, dating from the time when any child or young person began to work. His object was merely to render the Act of Parliament what it was supposed to be when it received the Royal Assent. He had not charged the great body of the master manufacturers with practising the shift and relay system. If he had done so, he would at once have destroyed his case, for it would then have followed that all the good results of which they had heard had been produced by that system. He was glad to say that the shift system had only been practised by a small minority of manufacturers. It had obtained no footing at all in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and among 932 the vast numbers of manufacturers in Lancashire there were only 200 firms that had adopted the relay system. He wished to take this opportunity of expressing his admiration at the manner in which a large body of the master millowners had received the Act of Parliament, had carried it into effect, had promoted its good working, and had declared their opinion of its results. He was most anxious to know what course the Home Secretary would take on this subject, for the present uncertainty led to much agitation and to most unfortunate heartburnings and hostility between the employers and their workmen. He declared most solemnly that, during the seventeen years of his pursnit of this measure, there was no one thing he had more sincerely desired than the restoration of harmony and good feeling between the employers and the employed. He was, therefore, most anxious that this Bill should not be held in abeyance. If it was read a first time to-night or to-morrow, he should be called upon to fix a day for the second reading, and although he was anxious to give hon. Gentlemen who opposed the measure fair time for its consideration, he was most desirous that the second reading should take place before Easter. The House might depend upon it that there never was a subject upon which the people felt so deeply, and which they would pursue with greater energy. They would devote everything they possessed—their very lives if necessary—to the attainment of their object. He must, therefore, ask the Government when this measure should be discussed, and he called upon them as conservators of the public peace to take care that the question was soon settled, or it would be the source of constant agitation. He wished to say one word before he sat down to the hon. Members for Manchester. If they chose to quarrel with his sentimentality they were perfectly justified in so doing, and he could find no fault with them; but when one of them charged him with being a hired advocate, and the other spoke of him as no better than a Socialist, he could only reply that he rejoiced in such a manifestation of the feebleness of their cause, which had led them to adopt the old and coarse rule—"If you cannot refute your antagonist, why then abuse him."
§ MR. BRIGHT
, in explanation, wished to say that the words he had used were not intended in the sense understood by the noble Lord. The instant he found 933 they created a wrong impression, he retracted them, and used the words "pledged advocate" instead. He thought the noble Lord was attempting to take an unfair advantage by closing his speech with the observations he had made.
§ MR. W. BROWN
was understood to say that he did not think a restriction of the hours of labour would work so advantageously for the operatives as they anticipated, and that he had no doubt they would eventually call upon Parliament to reverse its decision on the subject.
§ Leave given.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Lord Ashley, Lord John Manners, and Mr. Aglionby.